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tv   NOW With Alex Wagner  MSNBC  September 24, 2013 9:00am-10:01am PDT

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program peacefully, although we are determined to prevent iran from developing a nuclear weapon. conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable. >> on syria, the president sounded a similar note. failure to relinquish the country's chemical weapons stockpile will not go unpunished. >> there must be a strong security council resolution to verify that the assad regime is keeping its commitments. and there must be consequences if they fail to do so. if we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the united nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws. >> the president's words of warning and reiteration of american commitment to action came as iran's new moderate president, hassan rouhani has made recent overtures towards the west. rumors of a possible meeting between the two leaders, which would be the first in 30 years,
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have dominated discussions of the generally assembly. "the times" writes it has been the biggest tease of the year. it's not quite as momentous as nixon in 1972 would still rank as a landmark encounter. for president obama such a moment would mark a full diplomatic cycle, an orbit that began with these words to the iranian people in 2009. >> we know that you are a great civilization and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the united states and the world. >> recent weeks have undoubtedly challenged president obama's ability to navigate the choppy waters of international affairs, but they have also seemed to confirm his beliefs about america's role in the world. >> and while we recognize that our influence will at times be limited, although we will be wary of efforts to impose democracy through military force, and although we will at times be accused of hypocrisy
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and inconsistency, we will be engaged in the region for the long haul. >> after a month of muddled messaging and widespread criticism, things may be changing for the 44th president. as bloomberg's jeffrey goldburg writes, last week obama looked as if he had lost the plot. this week he has created for himself a potentially historic opening. it is no small thing for an iranian president to shake hands with the leader of the great satan. joining me today, managing editor of the grio.com, joy reed, chuck todd and white house correspondent at the huffington post, sam stein. >> washington invaded you. >> we brought washington -- we brought the mountain to mohammed. i think the u.n. general assembly may have something to do with it, bees to honey. chuck, it's amazing to me that i'm reading quotes from jeffrey goldburg who has been, i would
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say, excoriating the president's foreign policy as of late and now is, and i'm not saying that it's not legitimate, but the fact is for the last couple weeks we have all been focused on i think a rather flailing foreign policy. the fact that the president has been able to turn a corner potentially at the united nations with his possible handshake with the iranian president is a pretty dramatic change of events. >> think about where we were three weeks ago and think about what the speech would have looked like had a vote gone differently in the u.k. parliament, had the president not decided to go to congress. it is amazing. and we were in that situation and what sort of reminded me of that is on a total nonsequitur but related, the president will be doing health care with bill clinton. bill clinton did a speech on september 4th that was supposed to launch this effort and it got stepped on by the whole syria escapade. but this is what the white house has been pleading to folks like jeffrey and others who have been sort of scratching their heads
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or critical of how they have handled this tactically saying, hey, judge us by the results. and ultimately how the results, you know, it does stay consistent with how obama ran as president. remember engagement at the end of the day, something he got heavily criticized for by hillary clinton in the 2007 primaries, criticized in the 2008 general election, and he is there now. so we'll see. but you're right, a handshake with iran? the fact that syria agreed to inventory its chemical weapons. that in itself is an amazing step that's something i read in the israeli press, the israeli press, hebrew press, so the more conservative part of the press, saying if you said three years ago this was going to happen, netanyahu would have said you're crazy. >> john, who needs the handshake more? it seems ridiculous that we are talking about a handshake, but it is what it is and foreign policy is a delicate dance and
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handshakes are meaningful. a clinton adviser is quoted saying the real issue is not whether the americans want to meet, the real issue is whether the iranians want to meet. other folks say it's exactly the opposite, that brookings institution suzanne maloney says the hard liners rouhani has to answer to at home will not be happy if he comes home with nothing more than a handshake and he has to bring home the proverbial bacon. >> i don't know what bacon they're going to bring home. >> i was going to address that fact but this is just metaphor. >> i think they both need it for different reasons. but i do think chuck made the right point, judge us by the results. a handshake is not a result, so it may be something. and it may be promising. but count me skeptical. it still feels to me like obama is making chicken salad out of something else. >> there's a lot of a flesh metaphor here. >> chicken is pretty uniform.
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>> he's gotten a little fortunate, and i think the level of skepticism both about iran and about syria ought to be very, very high. >> but there is a very, there's sort of like the foreign policy reality and the domestic reality. and i think president obama plays foreign policy and i think there have been op-eds about this and i'll read those a little bit later, that he's playing foreign policy through a domestic lens. to chuck's point about judge us by the results, i'm not sure the american public doesn't think that he's come a really long way, to the point on syria, to the point that iranians may be shaking the hand of great satan. that may not measurably not change much actually in the region, i'm highly skeptical that this plan in putin will result in assad being deposed and syria being any more stable, but i'm not sure the american people really are paying that much attention. >> this is not a panel for vegetarians, apparently. >> we're just waiting for you -- >> i will say this.
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i think we in the media tend to get fixated on the processed stuff. what struck me about the whole syria debate was how twitter basically engulfed, there was such rapid reaction and analy s analysis. >> twitter engulfing a debate? that doesn't happen. >> but i think in that sense the public, i'm assuming, largely tunes out the vast majority of this instant analysis and then will tune in and say what happened in the end. and i think in that sense obama may benefit from the fact that he's been patient on some of this stuff. but i think chuck also hit on a very valid point which is that this has also engulfed not just his domestic agenda in terms of the health care speeches that bill clinton gave and is going to give but also his foreign policy agenda. we were supposed to be pivoting away from the middle east at various points in time during his presidency to places like asia and latin america. and what happened prior to his speech today was the brazil president was denouncing the american government for spying on it, revelations by edward
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snowden and such. so i think there's a lot of stuff going on thee at rickally around the middle east speech that are very important but getting lost. >> i would just add i think long term there may be diplomatic ripples and benefits from what's happening in the u.n., but in any reasonable near term scenario, i think the effect of a handshake between obama and the leader of iran on the u.s. public opinion will be infinitesimally small. >> there are a couple of things we have to discuss here, but we should not forget to mention and discuss the fact that the president planted his flag in the notion of american exceptionalism which to me is really interesting. it is both sort of a hat tip to, i think, the john mccains of the world and it is also a repudiation of vladimir putin, who of course wrote an op-ed in "the new york times" and i think for a lot of people who questioned sort of how the presidencies america's role in
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the world, it is doubling down on this idea that we make the world a better place. he said specifically i believe that america is exceptional in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our narrow self-interests -- >> show me the american politician that doesn't say america is exceptional. >> but this is coming after he said we may use military might. he has said that we will counter foot dragging with punitive measures. >> right. >> go ahead. >> in the best reading of it for the administration, the threat of force, that without the credible threat of force you wouldn't get near a syria deal. you think about the fact if you have putin willing to brook the idea of syria turning over chemical weapons, even admitting they have them. and you add that iran has its tentacles in hezbollah, decoupling hezbollah's power from the leader of syria and having iran move an inch closer to the united states' position is helpful in isolating the
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assad government. they are all sort of pieces of a puzzle. the only way to pivot out of the middle east is for the united states, which is sort of the only credible big deal maker left, right. there's us and on another level there's putin. you do have to solve that problem, which is that you have these nonstate actors that a lot of people believe are controlled from tehran. you have to defang them. to do that, you do need to have warmer relations with iran. we haven't had any relations in more than 30 years. we are the ones who destabilized and got rid of their democratically elected government and opened the door for what they have now. so i think that is historic. the american public is not focused on that. but in the big picture it's important. >> chuck, i don't think we can under or overstate the effect the sanctions have had on the iranians. >> i talked to one of the few that has a bureau chief in tehran and he -- and we talked about just the economic effects. he said they have had 40%
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inflation. every -- i mean this is -- this is a -- i go back and, you know, one of the great things that you have to reteach yourself all the time is that simple mantra that all politics is local and that does matter on the world stage too. why is rouhani doing this? why is the ayatollah giving him this room? because the people in iran, elected this guy without a runoff. remember, they could have messed with the numbers but because the people were saying they found the most moderate guy. they're suffering, they're starving, they don't want the sanctions anymore. they want this. by the way, this is one of the things that proves -- this is a place where the united nations worked. >> yes. >> and syria is a place where the united nations has dropped the ball. there is sort of -- and that was another point that the president was trying to make today. but this is -- iran is suffering. the sanctions have worked. this is why rouhani is at the table. >> there was no meat in that answer whatsoever. >> no meat. but substance. i would say there was some tofu.
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protein, maybe some black beans. i'm a big legume guy. >> please, twitter, take that up and run with it. "the wall street journal" is specific, to your point, the shift comes after a year in which iran has seen its oil revenue totaled $100 billion in 2011 fall to half that level. the impact of sanctions have tricked down to consumers which are contending from soaring inflation. everybody is hoping rouhani will come back with good news about removal of sanctions. >> to chuck's point, there is a downside to the instant gratification that we want out of foreign policy. those sanctions didn't happen two days, two months ago, those took a long time to take a toll. so we sit here and wonder why lingz aren't happening with respect to libya, egypt or
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syria. people need to slow down with their expectations with respect to foreign policy, whether it's this president, future presidents, past presidents because these things don't move that fast. >> patience matters. >> and patience does matter and iran is a very specific situation and iran, as you point out, joy, is the gate keeper to so many conflicts and unstable situations. but with regard to syria, i mean we were talking about a conflict that's been going on for years, 100,000 people have been killed. the week after syria said it would cede its chemical weapons to international control, a thousand people were killed. >> there's a human cost as well and i'm not trying to downplay that. but it's also very difficult to figure out what the next step forward should be. it's not as if we have a rebel faction in that country that we can say here are moderate people we want to send weapons and aid to. for every action, there is a reaction and i think we do tend
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to get into this concept that if we simply just drop bombs or give money or elevate one figure, things will solve itself but that's not really how this stuff works. >> or shake hands. >> don't forget the saudis -- >> or hand over the nuclear codes. >> the saudis have thrown some money at some of the forces that we're not crazy about. we're doing the arms. so how is that going to incentivize iran to back off too. this is not just the united states that plays a role in this. >> chuck, looking towards -- i mean sort of big picture here. looking towards the rest of the president's second term, i think it's possible that the area where he has the most effect is foreign policy -- >> it always is. it always is. there's some truth to that. i think his legacy on foreign policy, sam brought up the asia stuff. but the place the u.s./china relations are in are in a completely -- now, maybe this was going to happen no matter what because of china's roles of power but that is something that is huge, that is big, that will continue on to the next
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president, regardless of the party that they come from. but i think the downside to what sam brought up, i think this president didn't want the middle east to be dominant the way it is and that's, you know, thanks to the brits for the way they drew the lines. ultimately let's remember who drew these lines. it always goes back to these lines that they drew. >> you're right. president obama in 2007 think the address he was giving at the united nations would be -- >> five straight years it's been focused on the middle east. >> it's true, it's true. nbc's chuck todd, thank you, as always, my friend. you can catch chuck on "the daily rundown" each and every weekday at 9:00 a.m. eastern. after the break, senator majority leader mitch mcconnell finally breaks his silence on the dpgop's push to defund obam care. we will discuss the wacko bird's clipped wings next on "now." ♪
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yesterday the senate wacko bird was kicked out of the nest. the top two republicans in the upper chamber, minority leader mitch mcconnell and whip john cornyn cut loose freshman senator ted cruz and dismissed his crusade to filibuster his own party's government funding bill. to be fair, it was a complicated plan. >> the majority leader has stated it is his intention to force a vote to fund obama care and to do so using just 51 votes. any member of this body that votes for cloture on this bill will be voting to allow the majority leader to fund obama care on 51 votes. >> but the rejection of this
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convoluted strategy did not deter ted cruz, who despite getting kicked in the teeth, continued to push ahead, defiant and self-serving as ever. >> folks can do whatever they want to resist change. there are a lot of people who have been in washington a long time that are fearful of change, they're fearful of risk, they're fearful of anything that changes the clubby way washington does business. >> today the conservative skepticism is turning into outright hostility. the wall street journal called cruz's quest a charge into the fixed bayonets. he means republicans should keep trying to defund obama care even if it causes a shutdown. the supposedly intrepid general cruz can view the battle from the comfort of hq while the enlisted troops take any casualties. the supposedly intrepid cruz may find his ranks too thin to continue.
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most of the politicians who have gone all the way have not just cruz's ambition but also a jean yalt that is alien to him and a agree of affection from peers that by week's ends he can say a permanent i can't tell good-bye to. he's grandstanding his way to a obsolescence. we have elijah cummings coming up. we'll discuss the house's ticking clock when congressman elijah cummings joins us live. that's next. [ male announcer ] what's important to you?
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choose double miles or 2% cash back on every purchase every day. what's in your wallet? [ crows ] now where's the snooze button? with just four legislative days remaining for congress to avoid a government shutdown, the weight of the world seems to be falling on the shoulders of a familiar unseasonably tanned personage, house speaker john boehner.
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yesterday senate minority leader mitch mcconnell and whip john cornyn agreed not to join a wacko bird's filibuster and sometime the senate is expected to pass a clean bill to fund the government at current levels. but depending on how about rabble-rousing happens in the senate, passage in the senate may not happen until sunday which means speaker boehner will have one day to pass a bill and lose the support of a radical wing of his party or shut down the government. perhaps more relevant to the grand ole party, the consequences of a shutdown also include taking approval ratings in the american electorate. americans oppose defunding the nation's health care law by a plurality of 44% to 38%. when asked if they still ask defunding the law if it means
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shutting down the government, the opposition spikes to 59% with support for a shutdown hovering at an anemic 19%. joining us now is democratic congressman from maryland's 7th district and ranking member of the committee of oversight and government reform, congressman elijah cummings. congressman, thank you for joining us. >> good to be with you. >> there has been, i don't even know what you call the infighting in the republican party between the house and senate, between the house and house, but it's ugly out there. and the question is, what are house democrats thinking? because ultimately if john boehner has one day to save the government from a -- the u.s. government from shutting down, it's going to come down to house democrats. how far are you guys prepared to negotiate with republicans to avoid a shutdown? >> well, first of all, no democrat wants to be in a situation we're being threatened with possible default and possible shutdown of government
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because folks want to take health care from 30 million people. that makes absolutely no sense. and so i'm hoping that we'll be able to work out some type of agreement. but i've got to tell you, when you have a group of tea party folks who say my way or the highway, and, and, that they are willing to shut down the government and to place americans in very difficult circumstances, possibly even now going to the point of ruining the full faith and credit of our country and affecting not only the u.s. economy but the worldwide economy and sending us already in a difficult economic times into recession, you know, it's kind of hard to negotiate with folks that are coming from
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that point of view. now, a lot of it i've got to tell you is going to depend on how speaker boehner deals with these tea party folks, about 50 or 55 of them, who are determined to have their way. but let me -- and i've said this to my tea party friends, that when you come into government, when you decide that you are going to run for office, you come into a situation where it is about the art of compromise. i've never seen a bill that i liked everything about. but at the same time i know i've got 435 people that i'm working with that i've got to compromise. and this way -- my way or the highway will not work. >> so, congressman, my colleague, rachel maddow, has called what's happening in the republican party a hot like folks tearing each other apart like they're blind folded hungry we feels who someone dosed with pcp, which is perhaps even
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euphemistic. john harwood is reiterating that you did say that you did have tea party friends. but congressman, though there is -- it is a clown show in terms of the right, one has to point out the fact that we are now talking about the passage of a clean continuing resolution. >> right. >> whereas a few months ago we were talking about replacing some of those sequester cuts. >> right. >> i guess i ask you, if democrats have some leverage at the end of the day in this one hour that john boehner has to save the government from shutdown, are you going to push further on the sequester and try to have some alternatives to the sequester cuts? >> yes. the sequester has just been devastating to my district. we have a lot of federal employees who have been furloughed, a lot of people going through difficult times. nih is certainly in our state and social security administration. so we see it. we feel the pain here. i think we've got, and i've said it many times, that sequester is no way to run a government, it's
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just not. so hopefully we'll be able to come to some type of agreement. i've got to tell you, immaterial au -- i'm usually a pretty optimistic guy but with the tea party group doing what they are doing, it's hard to be optimistic, but i'm hopeful that we'll come to some type of compromise. because again, it's going to -- when you shut down the government, people definitely will feel the pain and they will feel the pain quite rapidly. as far as sequester is concerned, people are already feeling the pain. it has been gradual, but they're now really beginning to feel it. now we'll have cuts on top of the sequester, which is basically pretty unbearable for a lot of folks. >> congressman, i'm going to open up this to our folks in new york. joy, the idea that mitch mcconnell and john cornyn who has basically been riding around in the clown car with ted cruz, the fact that they came out yesterday and said we are not -- we're not going to do this crazy filibuster, we are going to go forward with the house bill and effect ifly sort of admit that
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they're not getting behind the government shutdown strategy in a very sort weird round-about way, i think may be a good sign. then again it's the senate. as we know, the senate is the place where semi rational actors stay and have no sway over the people in the house. >> the crazy -- the crazy bag of dosed up we feasels are really the house. in the senate it looks like they have decided the kids have played out in traffic long enough. i think this is because of ted cruz. you've had this long vacuum of conservatism where there wasn't a political leader so into that vacuum came the talk radio right wing. and now in the transition back to wanting temporal power you have people like ted cruz who emulate the talk radio guys but have power because they're in the house, they're in the senate. how do you teach those people who believe just idea logically that government is wrong, get rid of all these things for the
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poor, how do you teach them that's wrong? boehner has been completely unsuccessful teaching the house. in the senate they have tired of trying to teach ted cruz and they're trying belatedly to rein him in. >> why then, john, is this a generational gap? marco rubio announced he's on board with ted cruz's strategy. are this we know where our bread is buttered. it's not about getting anything done in washington. to be honest, it surprised me that mitch mcconnell said let's take the path of reason, if there is such a path in the republican party. given the fact that he's getting his tea party people are being challenged in 2014. >> mitch mcconnell deserves some credit for that. that's one of the burdens you carry when you're a leader is that he's trying to do -- serve both masters, running the primary as well as deal with the republican caucus. by doing that, mitch mcconnell is managing, because the thing that he says he's not going to filibuster is actually the house
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bill. it's sort of an easier thing. marco rubio is running for president. it's an easy vote for most of the republicans in the senate caucus. as long as there's enough, and there are, to get over 60 to go to this bill and ultimately strip out the obama care provision, that's going to work in the senate. marco rubio's vote is not necessary for that. >> congressman, what's the way out of the debt ceiling crisis? because it seems like what has been promised is, you know, you may not get your presents on christmas morning but you'll have a great new year's eve celebration. i mean the republican caucus now is under the assumption that if they don't get what they want over the continuing resolution, they'll get everything they want and more over the debt ceiling, which is a much more dangerous -- >> much more dangerous. >> much more dangerous thing to negotiate over. >> i am -- i am hopeful, and i believe that the president meant what he said when he said he will not debate with the republicans and bargain with
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regard to the debt ceiling. and i'm hoping that they come to their senses and do what jack kemp said. and i'm talking about these tea party republicans. the late jack kemp, republican congressman said, if you really want to serve your party, if you really want to do that, you serve your country first. and hopefully we'll be able to come to some type of agreement where there are some reasonable revenue coming in and at the same time addressing targeted, very careful cuts where it's appropriate. but again, we've got to do that. we can't continue to go down this road and stay the great country that we are. >> quick question, congressman. what do you think is the influence within the republican party on the house caucus of the u.s. chamber, on financial markets, all of whom are going to increasingly sound a drum beat that they need to get solution to this problem? >> i think they can have tremendous impact but i think they have to be even more
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forceful. i think even with the "wall street journal" piece that was alluded to, i think they could have been stronger because at the same time they implied in that article that we're okay with destroying the affordable health care act, putting it to the side. and of course that -- a delay in that health care law to me is -- you might as well kill it. so -- so again, i think the business community has got to be more forceful. the republicans has always been a party that says that they do not want uncertainty because that hurts business. and so hopefully they're going to have to be a lot more forceful and i think it might help. >> the business community needs to take the pcp away from the weasels. congressman, one last question before we let you go. the last time we had one of these showdowns, president clinton endorsed using section 4 of the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling over congress' head. do you think if it comes to
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crisis that president obama should do the same, that he should use his constitutional authority? >> i had said that the last time. but the president had made it clear the last time, and i'm sure he would not change it this time. i don't think he'd do it. i just don't. just based upon what he's said in the past. so my opinion can go so far with the president but then it's his decision. but we have to get through this. and boy the way, why people -- while the children are playing or whatever you all said. >> playing in the street. >> the thing we've got to keep in mind is that the people suffer. and i see it every day. >> right. this is not just a sort of theoretical economic argument, this has real-life costs. >> day-to-day, that's exactly right. >> congressman elijah cummings, thank you so much for your time and good luck with your tea party friends. >> thank you very much. after the break, as the deadly standoff between government forces and armed al shabaab forces continue in nairobi, new revelations about
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things in africa. we discuss when mark mazzetti joins us next on "now." i'm kind of seeing a... some kind of... this is... an alien species. reality check: a lot of 4g lte coverage maps don't really look like much at all. i see the aleutian islands. looks like a duck. it looks like... america... ish. that's a map. that's a map of the united states. check the map. verizon's 4g lte is the most reliable, and in more places than any other 4g network. trade in your old device and trade up to america's most reliable network. i've got the good one! i got verizon! that's powerful. verizon.
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it has now been four days since the start of a bloody standoff between armed al shabaab militants and government forces at the westgate shopping center in nairobi, kenya. this hour kenya's president said five of the terrorists have been killed and 11 are in custody. despite continued gunfire and explosions, the government maintains that it is in control of them all. but al shabaab militants counter that they are holding out and their hostages remain alive. the identity of the militants is still unknown but last night kenya's foreign minister told pbs that both american and british citizens were among the
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attackers. at this point u.s. officials say they are unable to verify that americans were involved. in a speech this morning, kenyan president said, quote, this is not kenya's war. this is an international war. indeed, the u.s. has been escalating its war against al shabaab and other terrorists in the region for several years. in 2011 american military forces began launching targeted drone strikes against al shabaab in somalia. that same year the cia was using a secret prison in somalia to hold shabaab prisoners. in recent years the u.s. has been running training camps for ugandan peacekeepers who fight shabaab forces and used predator drone, fighter jets and 2,000 u.s. troops and military civilians. joining us is national security correspondent for the new york times, mark mazzetti,. mark, always great to talk to you, especially in days like
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these. i wonder what you think about this current conflict in kenya as it involves al shabaab in somalia and whether this changes u.s. calculus. in your book you write the military's joint special operations command began paying greater attention to fighting a stealth war against militants in somalia. obama lawyers even debated whether al shabaab, which had not carried out acts of terrorism against the u.s., could be a target. was al shabaab a threat to america or a local militia that washington could simply ignore? it was sometimes hard to take the group seriously. sew surely in the aftermath of this attack washington will be taking al shabaab more seriously. how does that measurably translate into our national security operations over there? >> well, shabaab is a group that has been the subject of these debates inside the obama administration about how adepressive the u.s. should be. there have been a number of missile strikes against shabaab leaders and against al qaeda in
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east africa and operatives affiliated with shabaab. but basically the overall premise for the obama administration is don't get too deeply involved in the somalia war, outsource it to other countries. outsource it to kenya, to uganda, to other east african countries who have more of a vested interest. so certainly the attack on the westgate mall is going to raise concerns about the capabilities that shabaab has, but i still think that this debate will continue about whether this means more direct u.s. involvement. as you pointed out, the kenyans are eager to get the united states and western countries very actively involved in east africa, but there is a wing of the obama administration that is very concerned about just what exactly are the american interests here, and is u.s. national security at stake with this group. >> and that's certainly a debate we have over involvement in a number of countries in the, quote, war on terror. but i wonder what you think
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about the recruitment piece here and the fact that we are hearing reports that some of these terrorists may have been americans recruited by al shabaab. that certainly has to inform the calculus here, if not change it. the fact that al shabaab has -- its tentacles are long enough to reach and recruit fighters from the united states, from the heartland potentially, over to somalia. >> yeah, although it hasn't been confirmed by the u.s. it wouldn't be surprising if there were americans involved. shabaab has been recruiting americans to somalia for a number of years, primarily a group from minnesota, somali americans from minnesota. and it's this group that has been in some circles kind of left for dead. as they got pushed out of parts of somalia, but as with these groups, they're not very good at governing but pretty good at carrying out terrorist attacks. so they may not be in charge in somalia, but they can still do attacks like this. they can still do attacks inside kenya, where they have pretty
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good networks. they have good financial networks in kenya. it's hard to imagine they could attack the united states, but they could do clearly a great deal of damage. and with the american connection, it's obviously a great concern. >> let me ask you about that, mark. in terms of the strength of al shabaab, do you think they were working alone or do you think they were -- some folks have said it sounds like al qaeda is more involved here, at least in the training and the execution of this. do you think this is a sign of a strengthened al shabaab? because there have been very different analysis on this. some people are saying that the group is a weakened band of insurgents and as you point out not good at the running of a country. other folks have said it's an audacious return for al shabaab. where do you land on that? >> i can certainly see them doing these types of attacks. some experts i talked to pointed out that they were trying to do big, coordinated, complicated al qaeda-style attacks and they weren't very good at it. the plots kept getting foiled. but this kind of attack that includes people willing to die for the cause, involves
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ammunition, involves the, quote unquote, soft targets, this is something they could do especially in kenya, into the future. i'm skeptical that there is a real al qaeda connection in terms of al qaeda central planning this. this is something that sounds that it was primarily cooked up by -- cooked up locally by people who know the territory. the westgate mall has been the subject of intelligence reports in east africa for a number of years of the it's a somewhat obvious target but clearly wasn't very well defended. >> do you see this as an inflection point for terrorism in africa insofar as we look at the '98 bombing of the u.s. embassy in nairobi which was the opening salvo to of course other terrorist attacks. how much do you think this changes the dynamic in the region, if it does not change the american response? >> enclosuclearly you've gone t, other countries.
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it's an infliction point if the public lose heart, say what are we doing in somalia, why are we committing our troops. if they pull out of somalia, i think this attack will clearly be incredibly significant. >> mark mazzetti from "the new york times," thank you, as always. >> thank you. coming up, detainee hunger strikes have been a fixture at guantanamo bay since the prison opened, but it now appears that the latest protest is nearly over. as for signs that the facility may close, that is another story. we will discuss pain and progress at gitmo. that's next. la's known definitely for its traffic, congestion, for the smog. but there are a lot of people that do ride the bus. and now that the buses are running on natural gas, they don't throw out as much pollution into the air. so i feel good. i feel like i'm doing my part to help out the environment.
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yesterday the u.s. military announced that the latest hunger strike at gitmo is over. six months after the inmates began their protest and brought the world's attention back to the prison and the fate of the men locked away inside it.
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half of the detainees at gitmo, 86 of them, have been found -- have not been found guilty of any wrongdoing and have been cleared for transfer. sam, do you think we'll see the closing of gitmo in the next three, four years? >> no. >> that's your final answer? >> that's my final answer. >> even given the fact that the president gave it up again today at the united nations? >> listen, all logic points to this thing being closed. it's bad diplomatic emblem for the united states. it costs a lot of money. if we wanted to be smart about it, we could transfer them domestically. but i think the scars of what happened in 2009 are still there and i think people recognize that domestic politics are just too easy for people to jump on, even if it doesn't lack -- if it lacks logic. so i would be surprised, i guess, if they had a transfer plan. they might make an attempt to do it, but it's very difficult as it proved in 2009. >> joy, we were just talking about mark mazzetti about the radicalization of americans here
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in the u.s. going over to be foreign fighters. for some people and especially in congress that's 4% too high. >> no one wants to be -- also if we transfer these detainees back to the u.s., putting them in indefinite detention here is no more humane than having them in detention there. i think the only hope for hollying gitmo out is back to diplomacy. if you can find some way to find the countries they came from and to give them the political will to take their people back, because congress has built into this process that the president has to stipulate these people will never, ever, ever do terrorism again. but the one way out is for their home countries to take them. >> one way out would be a republican president. i'm with sam. i do not think that's going to happen the remainder of barack obama's presidency. if hillary clinton gets elected,
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i think it's going to be something that will take a long time and maybe would happen during that -- during that administration, but i think a republican would have a much freer hand to be able to get it done. >> do you think a republican president would take up the issue of gitmo? >> john mccain was the leading cause of closing gitmo. had he won in 2008 -- >> do you think he would have been able to close it? >> i think it mattered to him on a moral level. i just think at this juncture, it's just that it's behind 18 other foreign policy issues. a president would be a little bit silly in some respects to waste the political capital on something that's very difficult to win over anyway. >> well, in the meantime those 86 detainees remain under lock and key. we have to leave it there. thank you to joy, john and sam. that is all for now. i'll see you back here tomorrow at noon eastern. "andrea mitchell reports" is coming up next. can be come major. i'm phil mickelson, pro golfer.
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mitchell reports" lunch date. after president obama tells the u.n. he is let john kerry open the first direct talks with iran in a generation. will iran's president now show up for lunch this hour? it so, it would be the first face-to-face encounter between iran and the u.s. leaders since before the revolution in 1979. in his big speech today, president obama listed his top foreign policy priorities, iran, syria and middle east peace. >> i want to be clear, we are encouraged that president rouhani received from the iranian people an mandate to pursue a more moderate course. it's time for russia and iran to realize that insisting on assad's rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear. an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate. they too recognize that two states is the only real path to peace, because just as the palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of israel is here to stay.

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